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Every Treaty ends in a sell-out of the people

Colin Murphy


Dramatising the great events of history is more of a reflection of how modern society is trying to come to terms with the tragedies and traumas of the past

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Patrick Moy as Michael Collins and Caitríona Ní Mhurchú as Lady Lavery in Fishamble's ‘The Treaty’ at the National Concert Hall. Picture by Ste Murray

Patrick Moy as Michael Collins and Caitríona Ní Mhurchú as Lady Lavery in Fishamble's ‘The Treaty’ at the National Concert Hall. Picture by Ste Murray

Patrick Moy as Michael Collins and Caitríona Ní Mhurchú as Lady Lavery in Fishamble's ‘The Treaty’ at the National Concert Hall. Picture by Ste Murray

The Treaty was a sell-out, announced Erskine Childers — via Twitter. But this wasn’t a ripple in the space-time continuum. The Erskine Childers on Twitter is the great-grandson of the Erskine Childers who was executed by the Free State in 1922 for opposing the Anglo-Irish Treaty in arms. The Treaty the contemporary Childers was referring to was, in fact, my new play, which tells the story of the 1921 Treaty negotiations and has sold out its short run at the National Concert Hall (in a production by Fishamble Theatre Company).

That piece of good fortune hides an underlying frustration: the reason we sold out so quickly is capacity is restricted because of Covid. (An online broadcast will allow us to reach a wider audience.) Still, I am grateful to have the play on stage at all. In pandemics — as Shakespeare knew — theatres are the first to close. Earlier in this pandemic, I spoke to James Shapiro, one of the world’s foremost Shakespearean scholars, about that experience. During Shakespeare’s years at the Globe Theatre, London was riven by plague — it recurred almost annually from 1603 to 1610. Once a week, the “plague bill” was published — the equivalent of our Nphet briefings. If the death toll rose above 30, social distancing was enforced and the theatres were closed. But the government — like our own — gave Shakespeare’s company grants to tide it over, and the theatre sprang back to life as soon as it was allowed.


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